Small Bites

Sazerac: Downtown Asheville's newest bar/eatery, Sazerac, opened last week. Owners Jack and Lesley Groetsch, former managers of the Orange Peel, say that the venue is a classic-cocktail bar. Sazerac, at 29 Broadway in the space formerly occupied by Ambiance Interiors, is named after a cocktail created in New Orleans, where the Groetsches used to live.

Photo by Jonathan Welch

The bar leans heavily on New Orleans traditions, from the cocktail list to the cuisine, which is mostly Cajun-themed small plates. Lesley (who's pictured above) says the focus is on the cocktails, especially those "that have in some cases gone out of style, but in some cases are rushing back into style."

Sazerac also boasts a rooftop terrace. Visit www.ashevillesazerac.com for more information.

Waking Life: Jared Routledge's contention that Asheville's coffee scene should be as impressive as its beer scene will soon find more expression at Waking Life, a small coffeehouse in the making at 976 Haywood Road in West Asheville.

"I just feel like it's time for coffee to blossom to that standard," says Routledge. "Coffee is where beer was 20 years ago."

In his near-decade long career as a barista, Routledge has worked closely with leading figures in the high-end espresso industry, including the chairman of the World Barista Championship's rules committee. Having been exposed to the highest levels of coffee craft, Routledge is pained by what he considers locals' misguided espresso habits.

"Seventy-five percent of people in Buncombe County probably don't even know what a real cappuccino is," he moans. "It's not a 32-ounce drink. It's not a good idea to drop all these syrups in it. We had a guy who'd get six ounces of vanilla syrup in a 20-ounce latte. People don't see coffee as a cultural experience, and I'd like to gently move them toward it."

Gentleness calls for concessions, so Routledge will stock flavored syrups, although he stresses he's not planning to use the chemical concoctions he claims most cafes choose.

"My vanilla syrup is vanilla beans seeped in water," he says. "It's a whole other level. Otherwise, it's like putting out a good steak and covering it with ketchup."

Routledge reports the café itself will have a fairly minimalist aesthetic, since he's investing most of his money in pricey European equipment. Still, he hopes Waking Life will serve as a gathering spot.

"The idea is to make it a community-centered coffee shop," he says.

At press time, Routledge planned to open this month or next. For more information, visit www.wakinglifeespresso.com.

Sugar Beet Cafe: The most-vaunted breakfast and lunch spot in Fairview is taking aim at the dinner market, staying open for evening hours on Fridays and Saturdays. In keeping with Sugar Beet's philosophy, the seasonal menu changes weekly, but comfort foods are a constant: Pot pies were prominently featured over the first few weekends of dinner service. Sugar Beet is open from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday; reservations are strongly recommended. To learn more, call 628-0094.

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